Be a governor / trustee

Why do schools need governors?

For some time now local people, volunteering as school governors, have been making important decisions about the way each school is run.

Schools need more enthusiastic and committed people to step forward as governors. It’s an opportunity to have your voice heard and to influence education for the children in your area.

Schools have changed. They now make decisions on how to spend their budgets. In some of the larger schools, that can run into several million pounds. It’s a big responsibility for those in charge. That is why new people are always needed.

Could you be a governor?

Please take a few minutes to read this document and see what is involved. Being a governor is not difficult but you do need to be committed and interested in doing what’s best for the next generation.

If you care enough about the children in your community to invest some of your time in their future, get involved as a governor.

What do governors do?

The governors are responsible for making sure the school provides a good quality education. They set the school aims and policies together with the head. The head is responsible for day-to-day management. But he or she is chosen by the governors and works closely with them.

Every school has a governing body. It usually would include:

parents elected by other parents of children at the school; citizens appointed by the LEA members co-opted from the community (including the business community) foundation governors appointed to voluntary schools to represent the church or voluntary authority (if any) which provides the school school staff, including the headteacher Numbers vary depending on the school’s type and size. Appointments are usually for 4 years.

The governing body:

is accountable for the performance of the school;
plans for the school’s future direction;
selects the head teacher;
makes decisions on the school’s budget and staffing;
makes sure the National Curriculum is taught;
decides how the school can encourage pupils’ spiritual, moral and cultural development;
and makes sure that the school provides for all its pupils, including those with additional needs.

These are not simple matters. They affect the interests of the pupils, the morale of staff, and how parents and others see the school in the community. Professional advice will be available from the head and staff.

A governing body is not a supporters club. Governors are responsible for how the school is performing. Following up inspection reports is an important job for governors, so it’s helpful to identify problems and tackle them in advance.

It’s not easy being a governor

To be honest being a governor can be hard work at times. There may sometimes be a lot of papers to read, and meetings to attend. Governors may need to make difficult decisions about individual pupils or members of staff.

So why do people do it?

There are as many answers to this as there are governors. However many find the work is satisfying because it gives them the chance to:

make a difference to how well the school runs; do something for the next generation; serve the local community; and learn new skills. Working as part of a team, towards a common goal, is also something that most governors find very rewarding. Governors have to be prepared to give and take and to be loyal to decisions taken by the governing body as a whole. So long as they act within the law, governors are protected from any financial liability for the decisions they take.

The governing body usually meets at least once a term. You would probably also sit on one or two of the committees that look in detail at areas such as:

and premises.

Being a governor means more than just taking an interest, though that is an important part of the job. It also means regularly putting aside some spare time in the evenings and weekends. The amount of time varies widely, depending on how involved you become and what needs doing.

Governors can learn a lot by visiting the school and talking to staff and pupils. School governors have a legal right to ask their employer for unpaid leave.

Governors are people like you

Don’t be put off from applying because you are not an expert. Instead, ask yourself:

do you get on with other people?
are you open to new ideas and ready to learn?
are you prepared to work as part of a team?
do you have some spare time, especially in the evenings, to go to meetings or read papers?
do you want to put something into your local community?

If you can answer Yes to these questions, and you live or work in the area, then you already have the makings of a school governor.

You do not need special qualifications, but you do need to be ready to read a fair amount of paper, think about ideas and ask questions like:

What is most important for the school?
Where are we now?
Where do we need to get to?

Governors need to work closely with others to make good decisions and make sure that their decisions are followed up.

It helps to be a listener. You will stand a much better chance of understanding how the school ticks.

Governors need to ask questions, gather views and then decide what is in the school’s best interests.

Time and again new governors have been surprised at how their experiences can be used to help solve a problem at their school. You do not have to be a specialist: think about the skills you use in everyday life.

What help do governors get?

Being a governor is not all about what you have to offer. You will soon find that the other governors and the head are only too keen for new recruits to learn.

Information and advice is readily available from the City Council’s School Governor Services. This team also organises and delivers atraining programme that is paid for by the school’s training grant.

There is a course aimed at new governors, courses on specific topics and courses for different types of governors, such as parent governors. These courses are offered during the day and the evening.

The Department for Education and Skills (DfES) provides guidance booklets and other useful publications.

National organisations such as the Advisory Centre for Education (ACE), The National Association of Governors and Managers (NAGM) and the National Governors Council (NGC) offer information and advice. They also represent the views of the country’s governors to central government.

Pre-appointment Checks
It is important that appropriate checks are made on anybody who will be working in a school to prevent unsuitable people from gaining access to children.

All prospective governors will be checked to help ascertain whether they are eligible to serve on the governing body of a school, or whether they are ineligible because either:

they are disqualified from working with children by Section 35 of the Criminal Justice and Court Services Act 2000;
or they contravene one of the disqualification conditions imposed in the school governance regulations.

What should you do now?

If you think you have some of the qualities that are needed, please contact:

Dave Cadwallader (School Governor Services) for advice and information.

Links to groups that recruit governors and trustees:


1.      Inspiring Governance


2.      Governors for Schools


3.    Future Chairs Recruitment Service


4.      SIL Governors page